I think the most common goal that I will hear from parents (mainly fathers) is that they want 50/50 or split custody with their spouse after the divorce is over. From my experience, fathers have had the false narrative that the best they can do is win split custody with their wives. This is not true, and if you are a father and want to be named as the primary conservator of your child you have every right to push for that goal. However, if that is not what you want to do trying to win a 50/50 custody split is not a bad goal either.
The best route for you to take to achieve this goal is to negotiate for it with your spouse. Most divorces are completed via negotiations so to say that your case will end up before a judge is to bet on an unlikely outcome. If your case is a rare divorce that makes it all the way to a trial you need to be aware that 50/50 custody is not something that judges prefer. Judges like safe, standard possession orders (SPO) that are proscribed in the Texas Family Code. However, as parents begin to share roles that were previously designated for mothers and fathers uniquely, more courts are implementing these sort of split custody outcomes.
Some care needs to be given to what you want to do in the summers. What is going to work best for you and your child when it comes to their summer holiday? In SPO situations one parent will always be the one to have to choose which extended period of time he or she wants to have with your child. However, if you are splitting custody 50/50 that means either one of you will get first dibs on selecting an extended period of summer visitation. It may make sense to negotiate for a provision in your final decree of divorce where you can alternate between parents on which one is able to select their period of summer possession first. Make sure you send your choice to your ex-spouse in writing and do so in email and letter form just to be safe.
What to do when your child is very young?
If you talk to ten different attorneys/judges about issues related to custody of children under the age of three you are likely to get ten different responses. The subject is pretty difficult to discuss without having someone get animated about their opinion, is what I have found in my time as a family law attorney. As a father of two girls under the age of three, I understand the difficulties of raising young children and sympathize with the difficulties parents must face in sharing time with little ones.
The issues that complicate this subject relate to fathers being able to be named primary conservators of infants, mothers who are still breastfeeding as well as how to handle overnight visitation. There is a school of thought that says a child must develop a strong relationship with Mom early in life or he or she will face problems down the road. Others will argue that this is not true and that fathers can offer the same nurturing that a mother can. No matter how you feel about that, rest assured that your judge will have an opinion.
The next issue that you need to think about is how will you handle overnight visitation and whether it is something that you and your child are capable of. I say whether it is something that you are capable of because I can think of many parents who don’t do well with their child unless it is in a co-parenting environment. Every parent has their own strengths and weaknesses, myself included. How well you do with getting your child ready for bed and having him or her settle in for a good night’s rest is something only you and your spouse could attest to. Whether or not it is something you are capable of taking on immediately after your divorce is something for you to consider.
Finally, there are practical concerns that relate to whether or not your spouse is still breastfeeding your child. Again, I will do my best to tread lightly here but I think it’s fair to say that many mothers see nothing wrong with breastfeeding their children until age two- and sometimes beyond. Even if you are not in a somewhat extreme situation like this- infants need milk and if you are the father of an infant you need to have a plan in place if you are requesting overnight visitation with your infant child.
What I have seen become much more common in recent years in the family law courts is a stairstep approach to this issue. Possession schedules that allow parents (usually fathers) to increase the time that they are able to spend with their child under the age of three as they grow older. Obviously, if your child is special needs or has other circumstances that may inhibit your ability to negotiate for an increased time early on in their life you need to take that into consideration prior to negotiating for it or attempting to argue your points to a judge.
Handling the issue of coming up with a possession schedule for teenagers
On the other end of the age, spectrum come teenagers. Once a child reaches high school you are dealing with a completely different situation than you were when that same child was 11 or even 12. Your child will always be your “baby” but a teenager is developing their own way of asserting autonomy. Their interest probably lies more in spending time with friends than with you and your family. Once your child learns how to drive and has their own vehicle all bets are off as far as how time will be shared by you and your ex-spouse.
What you and your spouse will need to do is to learn how to strike a balance between wanting each of you to have enough time to spend with your child while also being keen to your child’s need to develop independence and skills concerning self-reliance. Only you will know what you are comfortable with and what your child is capable of. This is why it pays to communicate your goals to your attorney so that he or she can work with you to develop a game-plan for achieving goals. If you and your spouse differ on your views relating to this subject it can take time and effort to negotiate a middle ground with which you can both be satisfied.
Closing thoughts on the subject of unique possession schedules- tomorrow’s blog post topic
Thank you for your interest in this important topic. As families change, so too does the need for possession schedules to become more flexible and adaptable to those changing families. If you are in need of more tips on how to handle irregular work schedules in relation to a possession schedule then stay tuned to our blog. We will cover that subject and provide some closing thoughts on the subject in tomorrow’s blog post
In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding family law issues please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where we can address concerns and answer questions in a pressure-free environment. We take the responsibility of representing the people in our community very strongly and believe it to be an honor to represent our neighbors in a variety of family law cases. From Katy to The Woodlands and down to League City, we work with and for our clients to achieve their goals.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Texas Child Visitation Modification
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Texas Parental Visitation – Texas Standard Possession Orders in Harris and Montgomery County, Texas – Part 1
- Texas Parental Relocation
- Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.